A U.S. Magistrate judge denied a request of federal prosecutors Wednesday to hold a convicted murderer without bond after he allegedly sold gang members a weapon used to shoot two Chicago cops, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Judge Young Kim released Charles Williams, who was charged in a criminal complaint last week with one count of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon, on his own recognizance.
According to the federal criminal complaint against Williams, he sold a 9-mm caliber handgun last month to an undercover informant for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Williams was previously convicted of murder in 1998.
The complaint, The Tribune notes, does not mention the May shooting of the two officers.
Chicago police, though, had previously claimed Williams is suspected of supplying the rifle used in that shooting.
“That gun changed hands five separate times over the course of several years,” Anthony Riccio, chief of the Chicago Police Department’s Organized Crime division, told reporters at a press conference last week. “Five different people had that gun. Ultimately it wound up in the hands of a guy named Charlie Williams who lives on the South Side of Chicago. … He is the one that transferred it to this street gang who used it to then shoot a police officer.”
Enforcement of gun laws on the books became a sticking point between gun rights activists and the Obama administration. President Obama, who supported further gun control laws and regulations, lashed out last year at a CNN forum saying, “One of the most frustrating things that I hear is when people say — who are opposed to any further laws — ‘Why don’t you just enforce the laws that are on the books?'” Obama said. “And those very same members of Congress then cut (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) budgets to make it impossible to enforce the law.”
The Obama Justice Department under Loretta Lynch concurred at the time telling CNN:
“The Department focuses its investigative and prosecutive resources on enforcement that will have the greatest impact on violent crime in our communities,” spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said in a statement. “The Department’s violence reduction activities seek to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of prohibited individuals, not just to prosecute individuals after they have committed a crime.”
The Trump administration, with new leadership in the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, began directing its prosecutors and task forces to deal with the issue differently.
Sessions directed federal prosecutors back in March to place a sharp focus on investigating and prosecuting the most violent offenders. This would include, according to a statement from the Justice Department, “firearms offenses, including possession and straw purchasing offenses; possession of a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime or drug trafficking offense.”